Measuring Manager Power or Authority

Cite this article as:"Measuring Manager Power or Authority," in The Business Professor, updated April 1, 2020, last accessed October 29, 2020,

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How is the Power or Authority of a Manager Measured?

The authority of a manager is generally measured by the:

  • Degree of control (power) exercised, and
  • The number of individuals and resources subject to control.

A manager’s power is the extent to which they have authority over the individuals or resources under their control. The manager may have the power to identify projects, objectives, or goals, control any aspects of a function or project, hire and fire employees, assign work responsibilities, evaluate employee performance, set compensation and benefits, etc.

The number of individuals and the amount of resources subject to the manager’s authority is known as the “span of control”. This includes the number of direct reports and the specific resources under the manager’s control.

While power is a matter of depth. Span is a matter of breadth.

The span of management control has two notable implications:

  • Complexity of the manager’s responsibilities, and
  • Configuration of the Organization.

Naturally, a manager who has more direct reports will have increased responsibility for the activities and performance of those individuals.

The span of control will affect the horizontal width and the vertical height of the organization. An organization where a manager has more direct reports will be wider and more of a flat organizational structure. Likewise, fewer direct reports (on average) for managers means a more hierarchical reporting structure.

The factors determining the span of management control include:

  • Centralization – If a manager assumes a higher degree of control over subordinates, it leads to fewer subordinates. In a decentralized organization, the manager delegates more responsibilities, thus allowing for a larger number of direct reports.
  • Management Capacity – What is the manager’s capacity to plan, organize, lead, and control the activities and performance of subordinates.
  • Planning – Providing a higher degree of instruction to direct reports will reduce the need for instruction from the manager. Thus, it allows for a larger number of reports.
  • Nature of Responsibilities – Routine functions generally allow for a larger number of direct reports. Complex tasks or functions require a smaller number.
  • Staff – If a manager has staff to share in the routine responsibilities associated with management, it will allow her o supervise a larger number of direct reports.
  • Capacity of Direct Reports – The capacity of a direct report to manager her responsibilities will be a factor in determining the number of reports per manager.
  • Number of Supervisors – In some organizational structures, it is common for a worker to have multiple supervisors. In such a case, this will reduce the responsibilities of an individual manager.
  • Methods of Communication – If the manager is required to have face-to-face communications, there is less opportunity to meet with a large number of direct reports. If the method of communication is less demanding on the manager, she can handle more reports.

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